Former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, his hair shorn, but still tussled wildly atop his head, took the high road in a 17-minute session with the media before tonight’s Red Sox-Yankees clash. The one-time Boston icon said that being booed by the Fenway Faithful would not affect how fondly he will recall his four seasons in a Red Sox uniform.
“No, my time here is always going to be remembered,” said Damon. “It’s in many books and it’s always going to say that the 2004 Red Sox were world champions. I don’t think you can erase that. My time here has been great. You know, I can’t control the fans. However, they react. They react.”
The Chief Idiot also revisited his contract negotiations, saying he kept waiting for a Red Sox offer that never came.
“I think I was a little more upset at the time. I think I was waiting for one more offer to at least make it a tough decision. The difference between the offers, it just wasn’t tough. I think most people would have done the same.
“I was upset, but I’m actually happy. They have a plan and I’m happy for the players over there because they do have a plan. They set a value on you. It’s always going to be the player’s fault when you leave here. They made a decision and I had to make a decision too.”
Damon actually tried to downplay his return, saying he thought the return of Doug Mirabelli, who was traded back to the Red Sox from San Diego today, was actually a bigger story. “I think Doug coming back is a bigger story. He was traded and the fact that’s he’s back, that’s a bigger story. He and Wake work real well together.”
Here is more from Damon’s packed pregame media session:
On being booed
“It doesn’t matter. Baseball players, you get booed everywhere we go, home field, visiting ballparks. You can be in Kansas City, Toronto, Minnesota, it doesn’t matter. People like to boo ballplayers because we have a special gift to go out there over 162 games and perform. That’s the unfortunate part. I know I’ll have some boos and I can get on with my life. That’s just the type of person I am.”
On the reaction of fans he’s seen since arriving back in Boston
“Most of the fans that I’ve seen on the streets have said, ‘Thank you. I wish you were still here, but I kind of understand what you had to do.’ That makes me feel good because I played very hard for them and left it all out there on the field.”
On being back at Fenway
“It feels great. Boston always gives me such an incredible feeling. For four years, going to Fenway Park every day was a treat. Going to the house today [in Brookline], it’s definitely a lot bigger than a condo in Manhattan.”
On trying to sway fans’ reaction
“I don’t know. I never want to put feelings into anybody. I want them to make their own decision. Hopefully, they cheer, but if not I understand because I’m in a Yankee uniform. Those fans meant a lot to me for that time.
“This place is magical. The team we had here was special. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
On whether he’s happy as a Yankee
“I’m very happy. I’m happy for Big Papi for getting his contract done; Mirabelli getting traded back here; happy for Schilling when he starts, happy for Varitek, that’s my boy from Florida; Wakefield. I’m very happy for Coco Crisp for coming here and getting to experience what I got to experience for four years.”